Hiking Hocking Hills State Park: Waterfalls, Caves, Cliffs, Forests and Gorges

October 16th, 2012 Permalink

In Ohio, there is a gorgeous State Park that has undisturbed forests, cascading waterfalls, rugged cliffs, deep recess caves and mysterious gorges. The 2,356-acre Hocking Hills State Park is a place of adventure for nature lovers. It is embedded in Hocking State Forest and its three nature preserves includes Conkle’s Hollow. The park is divided into these five separate sections: Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, Cantwell Cliffs and Rock House. Hocking Hills State Park is about 3 hours away from Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the 10th most visited U.S. National Park in 2011. Both must be gorgeous in the fall season with the changing colors of autumn foliage, but we were struck by the beauty of the “greeness” at Hocking Hills. [47 Photos]

Cedar Falls at Hocking Hills State Park

Cedar Falls at Hocking Hills State Park. If you follow the Cedar Falls trail for a 1/2 mile, through an amazing terrain featuring a gorge and sandstone cliffs covered with moss, you come upon this 50-foot waterfall. Cedar Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in all of Ohio. Photo #1 by Todd Poling

A day in the forest at Hocking Hills

A day in the pristine forest at Hocking Hills will delight nature lovers with rock outcroppings, deep cool gorges, and a plethora of waterfalls. Photo #2 by James Clear


Hocking Hills Ash Cave

Enormous Ash Cave measures 100 feet from front to back and 90 feet from the rim’s edge to the floor below. It is the largest recess cave in Ohio. Hikers who come in the winter are greeted by another breathtaking site when the Ash Cave waterfall freezes from top to bottom. Photo #3 by Chad Koczera

Ash Cave Boulder

Ash Cave Boulder. The Ash Cave trail has been used for centuries, linking Indian villages, serving as a hunting trail for the Indian tribes who came to this area for elk, buffalo, deer and black bear. Photo #4 by George Bannister

Late sun reflections at Hocking Hills

Late sun reflections. Hikers at this southeast Ohio park can adventure over remarkable trails and see abundant wildlife in the woods. Photo #5 by Cathy

The sanctuary at Hocking Hills State Park

‘The Sanctuary,’ the photographer called this shot. In 2012, Hocking Hills started a new type of geocaching adventuring for nature loving geeks called GeoTrails. You use ‘clues’ and the GPS on your smartphone to hide and find hidden containers called “geocaches” or “caches.” There are hundreds of caches throughout this State Park; each GeoTrail has 8 – 10 caches. Adventure Hunters GeoTrail has caches located at adventure attractions throughout Hocking Hills. History Hunters GeoTrail has caches located at historical museums and sites. Treasure Hunters GeoTrail features caches located at shops and galleries. Collect all the codes on any trail and get a Hocking Hills State Park Trail Map bandanna. Photo #6 by James Clear

Arched Bridge on the Old Mans Cave trail at Hocking Hills, southern Ohio

Arched Bridge on the Old Man’s Cave trail, the most popular of the six areas at Hocking Hills State Park. It’s called Old Man’s Cave because the rock shelter there was once the home of Richard Rowe, a 19th-century hermit who is said to be buried beneath a cave ledge on the premises. Photo #7 by Todd Poling

Old Man Cave - late in the day, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

‘Old Man Cave – late in the day, taken when the sun was low in the sky – the falls and bridge are visible.’ Photo #8 by Cathy (haglundc)

Fall colors at Hocking Hills in October

Fall colors at Hocking Hills in October. Hocking Hills Reservoir was locally nicknamed Rose Lake. It is located just outside of Old Man’s Cave. The 17-acre Rose Lake sits among the forest with fallen trees providing shoreline cover; pine, beech, and hemlock providing shade and beautiful fall foliage during autumn. 2 million visitors a year at Hocking Hills State Park do not come to fish, but come to view the magnificent sandstone cliffs, scenic waterfalls, and caves that make this place one of Ohio’s crown jewels. Photo #9 by Sharon Taylor

Broken Rocks Falls area, which is south of the Lower Falls at Hocking Hills

Broken Rocks Falls area, which is off the beaten path of Old Man’s Cave and south of the Lower Falls. Hiking to this area is much less crowded and considered a part of “hidden” Hockings. Photo #10 by An Fear Glas

Peanut fishing at Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio

The photographer called this ‘Peanut fishing.’ Photo #11 by wormwould

November Sky at Rose Lake in Hocking Hills

November Sky at Rose Lake. Photo #12 by Jim Crotty

Early morning shot of upper falls at Old Man's Cave in the Hocking Hills area of Ohio

Early morning shot of upper falls at Old Man’s Cave. There are five main sections within the Old Man’s Cave area including: Upper Falls, Upper Gorge, Middle Falls, Lower Falls and Lower Gorge. Photo #13 by Jeremy Stump

Old Man's Cave mid-falls at Hocking Hills

Old Man’s Cave mid-falls. The mile-long gorge at Old Man’s Cave has a variety of geologic features like waterfalls, sandstone cliffs and rock formations with names like the Devil’s Bathtub, Sphinx Head, Eagle Rock and Whale in the Wall. Photo #14 by Jeremy Stump

Arched stone foot bridge at Old Man's Cave Hocking Hills State Park

Arched stone foot bridge at Old Man’s Cave. This was rebuilt in 2002 after “a devastating flash flood on January 7,1998 washed out most of the historic Old Man’s Cave Gorge Trail, undermining its three stone bridges and destroying seven wooden bridges in the process.” Photo #15 by Dustin May

Bridge at Cedar Falls

Bridge at Cedar Falls. Photo #16 by Rob Amend

Looking down at Cedar Falls Bridge, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Looking down at Cedar Falls Bridge. The beauty of Cedar Falls “began drawing visitors right away. The scenic gorge was, and is, an added bonus. In the early 1800’s, a trading post was built just a short distance downstream from the falls. It served the Indians and early settlers alike. There is a cave in the gorge where the Indians and early settlers obtained saltpeter, which was used in the curing of meat.” Photo #17 by Bruce Faling

Conkles Hollow in Hocking Hills State Park, looking from the rim and deep in the gorge where it's wild and green

Conkle’s Hollow is in Hocking Hills State Park. On the left, is looking from the rim of Conkle’s Hollow; Its sheer cliffs of Black Hand sandstone rise nearly 200 feet above the valley floor. The rim trail is about three miles long. On the right, is deep in the gorge where it’s green and wild. The gorge at Conkle’s Hollow gorge is only 100 feet wide in places and has numerous waterfalls cascading over its sandstone cliffs; some people considered this gorge to be the deepest in Ohio. Photo #18 by Analogue Kid (left) & #19 by Benny Mazur (right)

Hanging out by the river at Old Man's Cave before the rush of tourists had properly begun at Hocking Hills

“Hanging out by the river.” The photographer wrote, “We got up early for no good reason, and came out to Old Man’s Cave before the rush of tourists had properly begun.” Photo #20 by Benny Mazur

In the shadows - panorama of Broken Rock Falls

In the shadows – panorama of Broken Rock Falls. Hollywood seems to be enchanted with this state park and may be coming to Hocking Hills to shoot a horror movie featuring Johnny Depp. It is based on the novel Crooked Tree. Photo #21 by An Fear Glas

Monster house-sized boulder at Hocking Hills

Monster “house-sized” boulder. Along the way to Cantwell Cliffs there are inclines and descents, large boulders called slump rocks on the valley floor, a recess cave and a very narrow passage nicknamed “Fat Woman’s Squeeze.” There is also a reddish-brown sandstone cliff shaped like a giant horseshoe that towers 150 feet over the gorge below. A one-mile trail leads hikers to Lookout Point. Photo #22 by Bruce Faling

Looking up through the pines on trail along the way to Rose Lake

Looking up through the pines on trail to Rose Lake. Photo #23 by Benny Mazur

Bridge overlooking Old Man's Cave in July, Hocking Hills

Bridge overlooking Old Man’s Cave in July. At Old Man’s Cave there is also a 149-foot-tall hemlock tree that’s been called the tallest tree in Ohio. Photo #24 by Robert Batina

Snow and frozen falls, icicles -- Hocking Hills in the wintertime

Snow and frozen falls, icicles — Hocking Hills in the wintertime. Photo #25 by Jim Pater (left) & #26 by Jim Pater (right)

Shades of Blue and Green from behind the Lower Falls at Hocking Hills

“Shades of blue and green from behind the Lower Falls.” Photo #27 by Ken Colwell

Panorama shot of many of the boulders and trees that are found around the pool that forms at the bottom of the Broken Rock Falls - Hocking Hills State Park nature

“Panorama shot of many of the boulders and trees that are found around the pool that forms at the bottom of the Broken Rock Falls.” Photo #28 by An Fear Glas

Devil's Bathtub, different views, different seasons, Hocking Hills

Devil’s Bathtub, different viewpoints, different seasons. The photographer for the image on the left, who also captured the bridge, wrote, “This is supposed to be an exceedingly dangerous formation, where once you fall in, it’s too slick to climb out and the motion of the water pulls you down. So naturally there’s a very narrow trail past it where you have to step onto the rocks above it to pass if there’s more than one or two people coming the other way and no sort of railing on the bridge or the trail. Awesome.” On the right is Devil’s bathtub in December. Photo #29 by Emily Penguin & #30 by Mike King

Old Man's Cave in July

Old Man’s Cave in July. 1800Hocking Hills explains the story behind Old Man’s Cave. The ‘hermit,’ Richard, was supposed to have a stash of money hidden there which he promised to give to his brother’s widow in the Ozarks. Before he could do that: “Richard had gone to the stream in the gorge to get his supply of water. As he had done many times in winters past, he used the butt of his musket to break the ice. The weapon discharged, with the muzzle pointing under his chin. A few days later, he was found by a couple of other trappers. They wrapped his body in the bark of an oak tree, and buried him with all the ceremony the wilderness could provide, in the sand on a ledge in his beloved Old Man’s Cave gorge. There is no one living today who knows the location of his final resting place.” Photo #31 by Robert Batina

Studying Spanish on the rock near the falls at Hocking Hills

“In the years to follow, the pioneers in the area often avoided the Old Man’s Cave gorge. To keep their children from playing on the dangerous ledges and cliffs that are found in Hocking Hills State Park, they would tell them ghost stories about these Ohio trails. ‘Don’t go there. That’s where the old man died.’ Or ‘That’s where the old man shot himself.’ Or ‘The old man’s ghost roams the bottom of the (Old Man’s Cave) gorge.’ In time, it became known as ‘The Old Man’s Gorge’ but today, it is known far and wide as ‘Old Man’s Cave.’ It is the best known of the Hocking Hills State Park areas.” This photo was described as, studying Spanish on the rock near the falls. Photo #32 by Cathy

Bizarre concrete bridge by Old Man's Cave and behind mid-falls, Hocking Hills State Park

The photographer said of this concrete bridge on the left, “This is part of a bizarre bridge that crosses the creek running through the Old Man’s Cave area. The bridge is made up of several ‘cast-in place’ concrete pillars and platforms.” On the right is “Mid Falls from behind.” Photo #33 by Jeremy Stump (left) & #34 by Jeremy Stump (right)

Troll's eye view from down in a ditch, along a winding road, under an old stone bridge in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio

The photographer noted, “This is the ‘troll’s eye view’ from down in a ditch, along a winding road, under an old stone bridge in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio.” Photo #35 by Steve Wall

Creepy stairs to cave at Hocking Hills State Park

“Creepy stairs,” the photographer wrote. “This was taken from the inside of the cave that is in between the upper falls and lower falls at Old Man’s Cave. This reminded me of something you would see in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.” Photo #36 by Jeremy Stump

Rock House Hocking Hills

Inside the ‘Rock House.’ More curious history: “The trail to the Rock House is a bit more challenging than most of the other trails in Hocking Hills State Park, but the rewards are well worth the added efforts. The very trail that the hiker follows was the scene of intense and violent drama more than a century ago. William Reynolds was a herdsman. The land on his farm was rocky and hilly, and was unsuited for tilling. His farm included the Rock House, which he used as a barn, sheltering his livestock and storing their feed. On March 8, 1863, Reynolds was going down the trail to the barn to do his evening chores. On the trail, he met up with a bear, which launched an attack. Although he was severely mauled, Reynolds somehow managed to get back to his house. His wounds became infected, and he died one week later.” It’s also said that inside of Rock House there are “two ‘turpentine stills,’ left over from the Indian days. The stills are small recesses, or depressions, hand carved on the top surfaces of two sandstone shelves, each with a small channel leading over to the lip of the shelf…The use of turpentine as medicine for man and beast continued for many years. Turpentine was sold, for medicinal purposes, in pharmacies until the mid-1960’s. Today, it is sold in hardware stores as a paint thinner, with warning labels cautioning against contact with human tissue.” Photo #37 by Ken Colwell

Old Man's Cave - Mid Falls at Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Old Man’s Cave – Mid Falls. Photo #38 by Jeremy Stump

Hocking Hills Conkle's Hollow Deer

Deer in the gorge at Conkle’s Hollow. Photo #39 by Todd Poling

Water flowing at the falls at Ash Cave - Hocking Hills State Park

Water flowing at the falls at Ash Cave. “The name ‘Ash Cave’ came from the large ash piles that were found by the earliest settlers. In 1837 it was estimated that there remained 300 to 400 bushels of clean ashes ‘as dry as they were on the day they were burned.’ Test excavations of the ashes in 1877 revealed arrows, sticks, stalks of coarse grasses, flints, bits of pottery and corn cobs. Found in later excavations were bones of elk, black bear, skunk, deer, wild duck, rabbit, box tortoise, passenger pigeon, squirrel, wild turkey and wildcat; all of which were a part of the food supply for the Indians. To this day, no one knows the reason for the ashes; however, it is speculated that the ashes are leftovers from Indian campfires of centuries past.” Photo #40 by Jim Pater

Hocking Hills bridges, Rope bridge for zipline and brothers on a wooden A-frame bridge

Rope bridge for zipline and canopy tour on the left. Brothers walking across a wooden A-frame bridge on the right. Photo #41 by Jagrap (left) & #42 by Tim (and Julie) Wilson (right)

Tilt-shift of rappelling near Hocking Hills & Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve

Tilt-shift of rappelling near Hocking Hills on the left. Small waterfall at Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve on the right. Photo #44 by Nicholas Comtois (left) & #45 by Jim Crotty (right)

Hocking Hills, Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls. Ironically, Cedar Falls was misnamed by early white settlers who mistakenly thought the surrounding forest of hemlocks trees were Cedars. Photo #46 by Chad Koczera

Autumn at Hocking Hills Rose Lake

Autumn at Hocking Hills Rose Lake. Photo #47 by Todd Poling


3 Responses to “Hiking Hocking Hills State Park: Waterfalls, Caves, Cliffs, Forests and Gorges”

Leave a Reply